Wick Communications

Do clothes make the woman?

In Ethics on 11 Jul 2013 at 2:36 pm

Screen Shot 2013-07-09 at 12.21.00 PM

This week, there was a minor media kerfuffle over the way Cade Mertz opened her profile of Google engineer Melody Meckfessel. Mertz began by telling readers what the engineer wears.

How do we feel about that? More to the point: Would that have been the opener if the subject had been male? I doubt it.

Take Hillary Clinton or Michelle Obama. You read about the pant suits or the bangs or some aspect of the way these women look far more often than you read about the appearance of their famous husbands. The same is true of athletes, celebrities — you name it.

I can think of one good – or understandable – reason for that. Men in business all dress the same, more or less. If the uniform on Wall Street is suit and power tie, the uniform in Silicon Valley is jeans and a hoodie. Men are conformists when it comes to wardrobe, and if they are not that seems fair game for your next profile. If President Barack Obama greets a head of state in a suit, it doesn’t merit mention. If he shows up in cargo shorts and a T-shirt, it’s the lede.

Women just seem to have more choices with respect to the clothes they wear, hence the temptation to make something out of the choices they make. We’re all looking for telling detail; sometimes the clothes make the man and the woman and when they do, they deserve a spot in your story. …

But that hardly explains the way popular media treats women as opposed to men. We all know that Sports Illustrated has made millions by exploiting women in its annual swimsuit edition. If you ask me, it’s unconscionable. (If you think the swimsuit issue is in bounds, then why, pray tell, don’t we all do local versions and increase sales?)

This week I noticed that ESPN has gotten into the act. At least it is equal-opportunity, presenting naked male and female jocks.  ESPN makes its pitch for its “body issue” portraits by suggesting these are strong men and women who represent a new kind of beauty. I say it is just a bald-faced attempt to harvest clicks from the prurient.

I was most disappointed by the play given by ESPN W, ostensibly the site’s female-friendly alternative. Notice the screen grab with this post. It wasn’t enough to show the body shots, ESPN W even took us behind the scenes, relegating some of our most powerful, successful female athletes mere make-up models.

What do you think about this stuff? Are you ever tempted to include what the mayor may be wearing? Do you think women are trivialized by the media? What can we do to combat that?




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